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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Black Moon CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

2.84 | 463 ratings

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3 stars Emerson, Lake & Palmer got back together in 1991, older and hopefully wiser, to record this 1992 release, which has much more of a rock/pop feel than the Progressive Rock on their first five albums. However, unlike "Love Beach" (their earlier attempt at a more commercial sound) this album actually works. If you can listen to mainstream commercial rock and pop then you will probably like this album. All the tunes are catchy and the lyrics are good. Musician and producer Mike Mancina produced the album and contributed the song 'Burning Bridges'. Although the album has a more commercial sound there are still the Lake ballads, the 'serious' numbers and Emerson's take on a piece of classical music. So it's still ELP, just an ELP that has 'progressed'.

The Gulf War inspired the title track. The title comes from Lake's shock at seeing on TV the Kuwaiti oil fields burning and the thick black smoke filtering the sun into a 'black moon'. His lyrics talk of 'deserts burning' while Emerson's synthesizers and Palmer's percussion recreate the sounds of automatic rifle fire, fighter-bombers and shells slamming in. The band unashamedly borrowed the three-drumbeat riff from QUEEN's 'We Will Rock You' as the anchor for this track. After I got over that, it works. Good stuff.

'Paper Blood' is a real commercial rocker, but none the worse for that. Lake's lyrics talk of the power of money and appear to be a comment on how fortunes can quickly change for the worse (the band's, by any chance?). Could this be the reason for the carrousel on the album cover?

'Affairs Of The Heart' is a Lake/Downes love ballad with acoustic guitar and some pleasant orchestration, somewhat in the vein of 'Lucky Man' but with a more commercial flavour.

'Romeo and Juliet' is Emerson's arrangement of the superb 'Dance of the Knights' from Prokofiev's score for the ballet Romeo and Juliet (or the equivalent 'The Montagues and Capulets' from the orchestral suite Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2 Opus 64ter). Apparently Emerson described it as 'an obvious choice'. So obvious in fact that I often wondered why it had not been done on one of the first five ELP albums. I'm going to have to eat the words in my review of "Pictures At An Exhibition" and say that here I prefer the original. If you get the chance, go to the ballet or listen to the orchestral suite: a big orchestra playing this piece is hard to beat. I would have preferred ELP to have been more adventurous and given 'The Montagues and Capulets' a bigger twist by playing around more with the score and using fatter synthesizers, more guitar and percussion. Still, what they did is very good and should impress fans of Progressive Rock.

'Farewell To Arms' is a hymn to peace and has a very Scottish feel to it with Emerson's synthesizer sounding like bagpipes. Granted it's not Progressive Rock, but it's a lovely song nonetheless.

'Changing States' is an Emerson instrumental sounding like an upbeat movie soundtrack (horses galloping through the surf on a beach, boats ploughing through the waters - you get the picture). Not Progressive Rock either, but well composed fluff and pleasant enough.

'Burning Bridges' is a song composed by Mike Mancina; sort of 'Michael Bolton meets ELP'. Again not Progressive Rock but, so what, I like it. A very catchy tune with nice strings, and a little bit of Emerson's synthesizer keeps me happy. A slick, commercial piece.

'Close To Home' is a pseudo-classical piano instrumental written by Emerson and Lake. It's no masterpiece but is again pleasant; almost the sort of thing one would expect to hear in a plush bar or restaurant. However it doesn't feel pretentious to me.

'Better Days' is another pop song a la Michael Bolton, this time a Lake song about a down-and-out, written after Emerson told him about a bag lady who he had taken pity on and slipped a ten-pound note. An OK song.

'Footprints In The Snow' is a great love ballad by Lake. It's pure pop with a very catchy tune, decent lyrics and nice backing orchestration. I like it.

The Sanctuary Records CD has some bonus tracks: the Single Edit of 'Black Moon' and edits of 'Affairs Of The Heart', 'Paper Blood' and 'Romeo And Juliet' complete with fade-outs. Not essential additions, but shortened repeats of the album's tracks.

I'm glad I own this album of very accessible, polished music. Progressive pop? Commercial rock? Whatever. I've heard worse Progressive Rock many a time. Three stars (Good, but non-essential).

Fitzcarraldo | 3/5 |


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